I loooove the Swan Oyster Depot, what a cool place! I have a foodie friend who I get together with every month or so for lunch in the city. We try to go to new places that neither of us have been before… I suggested the Swan Oyster Depot because I went there a few years ago when my brother-in-law was in town. The line was out the door and we were next to get in when they called “take out only” for the rest of the night. So we ordered take out and ate in the car.
This time I planned on getting there early enough to get a seat! Swan Oyster Depot opens promptly at 10:30am. We arrived at 9:50am on a Thursday. We were the first people there! So we walked up the street and got a cup of coffee and walked back to the Swan to officially get in line. It was about 10:10am and we were still the first people in line… but not for long.
People began to appear and suddenly the line was about 20 people deep. Apparently this was a “slow morning”.
Here’s a guy setting up the windows. The sun was beating down so he had white paper covering all of the fish until the sun wasn’t so direct.
This shot was taken right after they put all the stools down… 5 minutes before this shot all of the stools were piled up in sets of two against the wall. This is it though, this is the entire restaurant. One main counter with stools. It doesn’t seat many people, hence why there is always a line to get in. It’s awesome, old school, authentic and everything you’d hope a seafood diner would be.
Yay, they finally opened and we took our seats about halfway down the bar, directly in front of the menu on the wall. I ordered what I had the last time I was there – the combination seafood cocktail and a bowl of clam chowder.
There was a huge bowl of oyster crackers every 3 feet or so… we were lucky enough to sit right in front of one! When you sit down you also get a big hunk of bread and butter, but I forgot to take a photo of that…
My view from the bar…
Ahhh the combination seafood cocktail! It’s served in a little sundae dish and it looks small but boy does it pack a big punch. The bottom is filled with lump crab meat, it’s topped with a jumbo shrimp and an oyster. And you get a big dish of cocktail sauce to dip everything into. It’s pretty mild and ice cold which is yum.
The first time I had this clam chowder I remember it being the absolute best clam chowder I’ve ever had. This past time I beg to differ but only because it was slightly luke warm… but I’m going to blame it on the fact that it was 10:30am and we were the first people in line. It was still very good and I ate almost the entire bread chunk they gave us.
What makes this soup so tasty is the fact that the broth is super flavorful and isn’t not super chunky… it’s definitely creamy but on the thinner side which makes dipping bread into it completely OCD and oyster crackers absorb the broth faster. It’s really, really good.
So, long story short, place is great. Despite all the hype surrounding this place, I still think it’s worth going (if you have time). The seafood is super fresh, nice and cold, and the ambiance brings me right back to the diners of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. You really don’t find many down home places like this in San Francisco. I love everything about it, except the super long line.
Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109